Chris Trotter so has the knives out for Helen Clark it is almost enough to make you feel some sympathy for her. Almost. But I don't see Helen as a figure who would appreciate my sympathy so I'd best save it for a more deserving cause.
Trotter writes in today's Dominion Post;
"....the government's catastrophic [poll] numbers are being driven by Ms Clark's unpopularity not the party's....she was Labour's greatest asset, the wind beneath its wings. She has now become the lump of lead on its back.....Miss Clark is no Bill Clinton: she cannot look her supporters in the eye and say,'I feel your pain.' At heart, the prime minister is a diligent and rather uninspiring policy wonk, who has never really understood that politics is not about the head, but the heart....Labour's caucus needs to get its head around this - and soon. Because the longer it delays replacing Ms Clark as leader, the more time it is allowing voters to convince themselves (if they have not already done so) that Mr Key is the prime minister they are looking for."
Are Trotter's assertions honest or are they merely part of some ploy to save the Left? It could be a bob each way. If voters really do vote with their emotions to the fore, then his constant kicking of Clark turns her into an underdog and don't Kiwis love an underdog. Alternatively if he spooks Labour MPs enough he might succeed in causing a change of leadership. There is a third scenario too. That nobody gives a rat's arse for what Trotter has to say on the matter.
Around the blogosphere you would have to be blind not to notice that many commentors religiously loathe Clark. They seem to be mostly men. Their obsession with her personal life and looks is very unpleasant to behold. I have never understood this viciousness. What Clark stands for - socialism - is well worthy of stout and sustained attack but getting in a lather over what Clark looks like, or sounds like for that matter, is a waste of energy.
My husband doubts Clark can come back now because that's just not what typically happens. Politically he has more nous than I. But I am wondering how useful history or precedent is, for this reason. Clark is a woman. She is a feminist. The first elected female Prime Minister. The last three decades of NZ politics has been so influenced by women that I can't ignore what their reaction to Clark's sudden unpopularity will be. Simply, I wouldn't discount the women's vote swinging in behind Helen (or the Greens, to shore her up.)
I won't vote for Clark, but I couldn't disrespect someone who does so based on her experience, intelligence and ability to hold her nerve. Unlike Trotter she won't be prematurely....panicking.
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